The time will comeDerek Walcott, Collected Poems, 1948–1984 (1986)
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
History, language, and power
Born on the island of Saint Lucia in 1930, Derek Walcott initially trained as a painter, before turning his creativity to writing. At aged 19, Walcott wrote and printed his very first collection, and handed them out on the streets. He made his first impression on the literary world with his 1962 collection titled, ‘In a Green Light: Poems 1948 – 1960’. This collection is an exploration of Caribbean history and the imprint of post-colonialism.
Gaining influence and popularity, Walcott became accomplished in both poetry and playwriting, moving between homes in Boston and New York in the United States, and his hometown in St Lucia. In 1992, the was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. All of Walcott’s works carry threads of the same themes, including references from both Island and Western cultures and literary traditions.
Derek Walcott died in 2017, and as a tribute to his life and work, BBC Newnight featured fellow poet Linton Kwesi Johnson reading Love After Love. Listen to the beautiful reading below.
Love After Love addresses the reader with imperative. It describes a uniquely intimate experience, celebrating self-love, as well as courage and hope. Though this poem is as personal as it can be, Walcott explores a very inclusive human condition of returning to oneself for love after a loss of any kind.
With no set poetic form or rhyme scheme, Love After Love creates a gentle flow of words complementing the tenderness in the commands. There is a sense of rationality towards the end of the poem which seems to cut through the metaphors. The speaker tells you to ‘Take down the love letters’, photographs and desperate notes. Again, this is an allusion to a specific scene but is still open enough that almost everyone could connect with the message.
Fancy treating yourself or your loved one to a collection of love poems? Whether you’re looking for a love poem for Valentine’s Day or just want to explore our entire poetry collection, World of Books will have something for you to feast on.
What do you think of Love After Love? Do you have a favourite love poem? Let us know in the comment below!